Camping And Flash Floods

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If you’re a camper, chances are you have camped in the rain.  In fact, many campers believe rain is just part of the adventure.  But in 2010, this adventure turned deadly as a flash flood swept through  Albert Pike Campground in Arkansas.  Twenty people lost their lives.  Over 200 campers rushed to safety.  The Little Missouri west of Caddo Gap stood at 3 feet on that Thursday night and by the next morning had risen to over 23 feet.  The flash flood occurred in the middle of the night, while the campers were sleeping. 

The tragedy at Albert’s Pike opened our eyes to the dangers of flash floods while camping.  As we move forward, we must find better ways to prepare ourselves for the possiblity of a flash flood.

What steps can you take to protect your family from a flash flood while camping?

Before You Leave Your House:

  • Watch the weather forecast several days before your camping trip and immediately before your trip.  If a flood watch is in effect or heavy rains/severe thunderstorms are predicted, post-pone your trip a couple days.
  • Call the campgrounds.  Ask about the campgrounds flooding history.  Also, ask if they have cell phone reception (Cell Reception is a website that allows you to look up cell phone reception for certain areas ) and a radio tower nearby.  You want to make sure that your weather radio will be able to pick up a signal.
  • Find out the names of surrounding towns and counties.  You will be able to use these as reference points when listening to the weather radio.
  • Know the nearest hospital, urgent care and fire department.
  • Remember to pack a battery-powered weather radio.  Set the stations when you arrive at camp so you can monitor the weather.
  • Make sure you have a full tank of gas.

At The Campgrounds:

  • Choose a campsite on higher ground.  Avoid camping in drainage areas such as by creeks, rivers or in narrow cannons.
  • Have an Evacution Plan.  Flood waters rise very quickly.  Do not delay or try to pack everything back up.  Just a 5 to 10 minute delay can be the difference between whether you are able to get to safety or not. 
  • When evacuating, do not drive across flooded roads or bridges. It is unsafe and you could be swept away in the water.  If your car stalls in water, abandon the car and move quickly to higher ground.

My first camping memory is from Caddo Gap.  I camped there as a little girl with my parents and maternal grandparents.  We camped in a cabin and fished in the river.

I also have family and friends in Arkansas, Texas and Louisiana, which is where the majority of campers at Albert’s Pike lived.  This tragedy hit way too close to home for me.  This could have been my friends or family.  And, I know that no matter how much you prepare, natural disasters can and will occur.

These are tips for camping preparation.  I cannot guarantee that these tips will save your life in a natural disaster.

But, due to the events at Albert’s Pike, we must diligently try to find better ways to prepare and protect our families while camping.  We owe that much to the campers who lost their lives in Arkansas.  If you have suggestions, please leave them below.  We can all learn from each other.


This post is dedicated to the families who lost loved ones at Albert’s Pike.  My heart and prayers go out to you.

Additional Resources:

USDA Forest Service

National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office


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Tiffany loves tent camping and knows how to bait a hook.

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  1. My heart goes out to the families who lost loved ones…but dosnt this all seem a little extreme? Calling ahead to check on cell and radio towers, Constantly monitoring the weather in fear of a flash flood seems like paranoia. I go camping to get away from stuff like that. It was an freak incident…sure take some precautions…but don’t worry so much that you don’t enjoy your trip. Just my opinion…thank you for developing a comprehensive list of precautions. I will pick and choose what works for me.
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    • Tiffany- Thank you so much for this. I am a survivor that lost my husband, 5 yr old son and 2 yr old daughter in this tragic flood. It warms my broken heart to know that not everyone has forgotten the 20 precious lives that were taken that awful morning. God knows I will never forget.
      To the previous post….. Too Extreme??? Is that even possible? I think this is very good advise. Do what u want but dont take away from those that take this advise to heart. You can never be too prepared.

      • I am so sorry for your loss. I can’t even imagine all that you have been through. You seem like a very strong woman, although I know you don’t feel like it most of the time. I am praying for you. I pray that this Christmas and this next year will bring you continued strength, peace and that you will have joy.

        This was a very hard post for me to write. It was emotionally draining. I asked my husband several times to read and reread it. But hearing from you, I think maybe I was supposed to write this post. Thank you for your comments and for your courage. And know that I will never forget you, your sweet family or the others who lost their lives that tragic morning.

  2. Kimberly Mays says:

    My husband and I just returned from a 4 day trip to Alberts Pike. We had camped there 7 years ago, but I knew something was wrong about now. The campgrounds were empty. The restrooms, except one, had been closed and there were boards nailed over the doors. You could only use the one available for day use. I couldn’t imagine what went wrong, but I knew something had. It wasn’t until we left the campsite to return home, when my husband told me what had happened. Still, even he had only bits and pieces about the flood. I later realized, after asking myself why I didn’t know about this, my son had been murfered only 5 short months prior to this tragedy. I suppose my mind had protected me from this terrible act. I just had no recollection. But, I googled the flood and read so many heartbreaking stories. My heart just ached for these babies and the adults. It ached for the mothers and fathers that lost their precious children. I ached for all of these families. It hasn’t stopped since my return home. I still see the horrible images found on the internet of that night. I still see those babies faces in my head, and I never met any of the people that were there back then. It also touched me, learning how so many were residents from my hometown, Shreveport/Greenwood, LA. I can say this, Albert’s Pike continues to carry a heavy aroma of tranquility. Maybe more now, as the beautiful butterflies dance at your fingertips like nothing I’ve ever seen before. I will continue to visit there, because I want to make it a yearly tradition, where I place 20 long stem flowers into the stream, in memory of these children and adults. To the families, I’m so sorry for your loss, and the pain you’ve had to live with. I know it’s never easy. I’m still hurting for my son. I pray that your lives find comfort and peace through all of this. Kimberly Mays

  3. Kimberly Mays says:

    I would also like to make a comment to the previous post. I had to read it again, just to see if I was clear in what you said. You may be someone who is more “outdoor-inclined” and don’t need to take advice from others on how to camp safely. You are right. This was a “freak incident”, but it still happened. None of knows when our time is up here, and certainly don’t ever imagine losing a child. However, God does give us tools to be used in this life here and this might be one of those tools He’s put out there for us to learn from. He may have just chosen this lady to write her blog for this very reason. You can never be too cautious anywhere you go, or in anything you do. There is no such thing as “too extreme” when it comes to your safety, and especially the safety of your children. It’s always better to over-react, than under-react, and have the “what-ifs” knawing at your mind everyday. While we were at Albert’s Pike camping last week, the forecast called for 60% rain on Thursday. It never rained on that day. The next couple of days the forecast called for 30 and 20% rain, but it rained all night and most of the days on and off. If I had known at the time of the flood, I’m going to be honest, we probably would’ve packed up our gear and headed home. But, I just considered it to be a heavy rain storm with thunder and it never concerned me. These families had no reason to feel threatened by the weather on that night. For one, no one contacted the campers to say there was danger lurking by. EVERY parent has a responsibility to their child, to him them safe. Not knowing what’s ahead can make this job extremely difficult, as we’ve all seen. This tragedy has left a lot of families behind to cope with something that will NEVER be understood. These mothers have been left with an unbearable pain and even a guilt that doesn’t belong to them, but it’s there. I’ll assure you, it’s there. Mothers believe we are the ones that should always protect our children from harm and danger, no matter how young or old they are. We’ve done it from the moment of conception, and we feel it is our motherly-duty to keep them safe. When something something so out of our control occurs, this doesn’t mean we are off the hook. We still feel responsible and that’s a terrible thing to live with. These mothers had their babies in their arms, where they belonged and were safe. Having something rip your child from their safe-haven is the most horrific thing you can ever imagine. On that night, everyone there was taken, even those that survived left this place and had to live as someone different. Their lives will never be the same as before and this my friend, is enough in itself, to live “too extreme”, as you called it. I would be saddened to see Albert’s Pike go away. It’s the most beautiful place in this part of the world to me. It’s always been a little piece of Heaven, but now, I think it’s the opening that leads to Heaven’s door. I don’t mean this to sound frightening if it does. I mean this in a beautiful way, because these children left together on that night, and Jesus and His angels carried them home. We did not have any phone reception while we were there and we were miles from any other campers. The grounds were almost empty and it is Summer time. A sheriff passed through on 2 days we were there, but traffic was almost obsolete. The deer, butterflies, and raccoons were about the only visitors we did see on a daily basis. My husband and I took the ATV and traveled the dirt roads, where we collected old trash from the edges and burned at our camp. We did this to help keep Albert’s Pike clean, not because we were bored. I hope the campsites are able to reclaim their once, beautiful appearance. Right now, it seems that most of the area is still craving for attention, and I know why now. Tiffany, I’ve noticed this site hadn’t been commented on in such a long time. I hope you continue to make use of it. Look at me. I found it, and I had a compelled notion to write. This is what the people need to read about. There certainly need to be tips of better ways we can do things, even when the unexpected arises. I now know, when me and my family return there, I will have your tips and others I learn about with me. I will certainly use “too extreme” measures in the future, when we go there. I won’t anticipate a tragedy, but I will now be proactive in the event one takes place. Life vests and lots of rope will be carried along this time. Our vehicles won’t be facing toward the camp, but away in the direction of the main road. I will have plenty of flashlights available, stored in waterproof bags. Our cell phones will be dressed in waterproof cases, where Emergecy Call, which is available, can be accessed. We will have a weather radio that can be used in remote areas, and walkie talkies with long range use. I’m having rubber bracelets made in neon colors that glow in the dark, with my family members names on them. These are really inexpensive to have done at any business promotion website, without a minimum order. I recommend strapping rope from trees that cross your campground to the property on the other side of stream. Place the rope to the highest area possible. It might not look attractive, but it could help in a flood situation, if needing something to hold on to. Make sure the tree structure is one that is healthy and not too aged. If camping in an RV, strap around it and down. This won’t hold in a heavy flood, but it can allow you more time to leave area before being swept away. Take bull horns along on trip. This can be used to sound off if lost. Lastly, make sure everything at campsite is packed away in tent of its own before going to sleep at night. I know this is more trouble, but it will not only serve as a better way to keep the animals out, plus if a flood comes there is less debris to be injured from. These are just a few ideas I came up with when planning our future trips to Albert’s Pike. I hope they help. Thank you! K. Mays

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